Saturday, December 30, 2006
I shouldn't be surprised, although I am, because Kirk Ferentz told me two weeks ago that he was re-energized and refocused on returning Iowa to "Hawkeye football"; that's the kind of play we've come to expect from Ferentz-coached-teams. More hustle, harder hits, fewer penalties, etc. Somehow it all went missing for most of this disappointing season and Kirk didn't pass the blame. He took responsibility and said he needed to make sure the Hawks did all the little things. Today in San Antonio, they did.
Well, almost. The game first turned on the ineligible receiver call. At first blush, I thought it was a horrible call, but upon further review of both the play and the rule book, I think they got it right. Chandler was in motion, so to be eligible he needed to either be on the end, which he wasn't, or in the backfield, which he really wasn't either. He was slightly behind the line, but not enough. 21-3 turned into 14-10, and the penalty had nothing to do with whether the play worked. The second biggest impact play was the ill-advised trick play with the game on the line late in the fourth quarter. It's true, if it worked, we'd all praise the daring call, but Iowa needed three points. This is one time conservative would have made more sense.
Other than that, a good all around effort from the coaches and players, especially Andy Brodell, who left the Longhorns stunned that a white guy from Iowa could run that fast, and Drew Tate, who once again proved he has enough heart to nearly make up for his temper. Nearly.
Great game. Glad I got to see it. I also think we witnessed that Kirk Ferentz will not let the "little things" slide again. I also hope everyone in Hawkeye country, including the coaches and players, realizes Iowa should have won this game. Big improvement, but not all the way back yet.
Happy New Year.
Thursday, December 28, 2006
Like most people, my take is somewhere between the two extremes. I do think too much has been made of this, and no, I don't think we're responsible. Tate's comments were interesting and did belong in our newscast. Furthermore, I love that the 13Raw feature at whotv.com provides us the opportunity to show you an entire interview so you can see the complete context, including the line of questioning on both sides of the sound byte. The story had legs because people couldn't stop talking about it, and that includes a lot of non-sports fans.
I don't think Tate meant any great offense, nor do I think he was joking. I think he honestly feels like he's faced so much criticism because many Hawkeye fans have nothing to do but obsess about Iowa football. There is some truth in the obsession, but not the lack of entertainment and cultural options. Tate lives in Iowa City, a place you'll find even Cyclone fans admit has a lot to offer, though not the NFL (especially this season). As for corn stock, it does matter to a lot of us, and even makes its way into newscasts, but we shouldn't be defensive; it beats the heck out of stories on crime rates. More than anything, I think Tate's verbal darts show he's aware of his critics, they hurt him, and this is how he explains them.
It was not a smart thing to say. He sounds ungrateful and condescending. We all say things that were taken more harshly than we intended, especially those of us who have been married. You have to think before you open your mouth, even if you're just 22 years old.
I've been both a supporter and a critic of Tate. I applaud him for often playing hurt and giving everything he's got on game day. Maybe too much. There are times I think he was too banged up to help the team and he played anyway, but there's no questioning Tate's heart. I do have a problem with his on-field leadership. It's true, when Iowa was winning, we praised Tate for his fiery leadership, but now that the Hawks are losing, he's put down for similar behavior. I think there's a fine line between fiery and temperamental, and Tate crossed the line way too many times this season. Why do you think Kirk Ferentz put him in timeout during the Minnesota game... because he was acting like a child. Screaming works better when you're winning because it keeps players grounded. When you're losing, it can shake already fragile confidence. A good leader knows the difference.
Bottom line, I don't think what Tate said was a huge deal. It gave some people the opportunity to pile on a guy they've already made their minds up about, and gave others a reason to smile at the same old standby stereotypical put-downs of Iowa. Each time I watch the interview, I'm less offended. My initial reaction was similar to the way you feel when someone makes a derogatory comment about family. After a deep breath, it's not as bad as it initially seemed.
Tate didn't choose his words wisely, but he shouldn't be persecuted for them either.
Thank you for all your thoughtful feedback.
Tuesday, December 26, 2006
You can see the interview here on the www.whotv.com sports page or under "AS SEEN ON 13", look for "13Raw".
Please watch, vote on our web poll, and then discuss on the Murphy's Law feedback. I'll give you my thoughts next time.
I hope you had a great holiday.
p.s. Thank you to WOIA, the NBC in San Antonio, for shooting the interview with Tate for us.
Tuesday, December 12, 2006
but please read the rest of my original post first.
... In random order:
Airline Travel: Thanks a lot terrorists; you've made air travel at best, inconvenient, and at worst, unbearable. Nothing like having your two year old son have to remove his Thomas the Train sneakers to check for a shoe bomb. The latest wrinkle is no liquids. I watched a mother in Orlando have to pour out her baby's formula before going through the security.
Casino Royale: Apparently the Bond people watched the Bourne Identity and took notes. They've reinvigorated the series with a jolt of gritty realism. Bond movies had turned downright silly. Once you've had Denise Richards play a nuclear physicist, who pronounces nuclear like President Bush ("nucular"), you've jumped the shark. Enter Daniel Craig.
Craig is fantastic as Bond. The series makes a brilliant decision to go back to the beginning and show how Bond became Bond. Best line, when asked if he wants his martini shaken or stirred, Bond says, "Do I look like I give a damn?" Craig never winks at the audience, and you will believe this guy has a license to kill, and uses it. Plus, the men who watch this will feel like they need to do pushups after the movie. Craig works out more than Andy Fales. Casino Royale gets an A. A tad long, but the best Bond movie ever.
Drake Dollar Days: Props to the Drake athletic department for doing anything it can to convert Central Iowans into Bulldog fans. This is a good start. Dollar tickets, dollar popcorn, and dollar hot dogs. That's unheard of in this age of runaway spending on college athletics.
Dollar days would be a good deal if the Dogs were playings like, well, dogs, but Dr. Tom Davis has Drake playing its best basketball since he surprised us all by taking the job. Drake stunned Iowa State at Hilton, came from 18 down to snuff out the Anteaters of Cal-Irvine, and rides a five game winning streak into Saturday's showdown with Iowa. Is the year the Bulldogs finally take down the Hawks?
Borat: Still haven't seen it. John Bachman found it a little on the mean-spirited side, while Andy Fales thought it was flat out hilarious. This probably tells you as much about John and Andy as it does Borat. High five.
Best Christmas Pageant Ever: Another crowd pleaser from the always reliable Des Moines Playhouse. My 5 year old, Cade, said it was his favorite play ever.
Ricky Bobby: Speaking of baby Jesus, "Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby" is out on DVD. I bought two copies today, just so I have back-up. This ridiculous movie made me laugh like no other this year, although Little Miss Sunshine had the single biggest gut-buster. Ricky Bobby isn't for everyone---Andy thought it was just "okay"---but I loved it. (Warning: It's disturbing how much Will Ferrell looks like Jon Miller in this movie.)
Troy Smith Wins Heisman: I voted for Troy. Everybody voted for Troy. ESPN still had to fill an hour, and with zero suspense, it was nearly unwatchable. Smith deserved the trophy, but I hate the way the Heisman has turned into an offensive MVP award from the best team. Gino Torretta? Jason White? Come on.
By the way, Smith tried to fly back to Ohio with his Heisman, like fellow Buckeye Eddie George did years ago, but Smith couldn't get the trophy through airport security. He had to ship it instead. Did I mention the terrorists suck?
Iowa State - Iowa basketball game: Hawkeyes dominated. Cyclones looked awful. All those turnovers must keep Greg McDermott up at night.
The game had less buzz than any I can remember. I think people cared more about the Iowa-Iowa State wrestling match. Brands and Sanderson jolted that series like Daniel Craig did for 007.
UNI Panthers: Best basketball team in Iowa, and still only ranked as the 4th best in the Missouri Valley. The Valley is a beast. Drake could be much better and still not have the wins to prove it.
Return of the Jedi: My son Cade watches this about three times a week. I remember loving it, but why didn't I notice how silly some of the musical scenes are near the begining when Jabba shows up? Is it just my childhood memory or did George Lucas make these scenes even cheesier when he "updated" the original movie? And don't get me started on the Ewoks. The Empire Strikes Back remains the best of the six, with Stars Wars right behind. I'd rank Revenge of the Sith third, but the series never recovers from losing Hans Solo.
I sound like a dork.
Jill Martin Out for the Season: That's a shame. Drake will lose a lot of games it would have won with Martin in the line-up. Let's hope she gets a medical redshirt.
Heroes: Great show, and a much needed hit for NBC, but Heroes is not for small kids, as I found out the hard way. Cade's nightmares should end in a few months.
Body Hair: I remember watching City Slickers 15 years ago, and wondering what Billy Crystal was talking about when he was turning 39 and warning children about the perils of growing old. Now that I've hit my forties, I am experiencing the absolute horror of the occasional stray hair poking out of previously unchartered patches of skin, like the ears! It's awful. I realize this is a sharing violation, but if you're a man under 40, consider yourself warned. If you're a man over 40, I feel your pain. If you're a woman, I have newfound respect for all that grooming you do.
Best Parenting Advice of the month: I get asked to play golf all the time, and although I'm not good, I love it. However, I agree with Cris Collinsworth: Put the golf clubs up until your last kid leaves for college. You'll have plenty of time after that. The exception, if your kids take a natural interest in golf, it is a great opportunity to talk and bond. John Bachman makes this work with his now grown kids, and his wife, Barb. The guy makes it all work.
Thank you for your patience, and your feedback.
Tuesday, November 28, 2006
Will Chizik lead ISU to Championships? We really don't know. I think he shows as much potential as you could possibly hire, and he has the backing that he'll need from the University, but it won't be easy. Yes, Chizik is a great recruiter when he's recruiting Texas kids to the University of Texas or Alabama kids to Auburn, but now he'll need to ask them to leave home and head to a place many couldn't find on a map: Ames, Iowa.
Does that make it impossible? No. But it won't make ISU the University of Texas either. What Cyclone fans should expect is for Chizik to improve the level of leftovers ISU takes from Texas, Florida and other fertile recruiting grounds. Occasionally, maybe Chizik and his staff actually steal someone who the big guys wanted.
Staff is also key, and $1.5 million will help a LOT. Chizik is a defensive guru. Expect Iowa State to improve right away. He's also smart enough to hire an offensive coordinator who can do more with less. ISU will not have Oklahoma talent anytime soon, so you have to work harder, be more creative, and out-think the Sooners (and half the other teams in the Big 12).
Hiring in Secrecy: I was fairly certain ISU had hired Brian Kelly. Partly because we spent several days eliminating virtually everyone else we thought it might be (see paragraph one); partly because ISU officially asked for permission to interview Kelly Saturday and announced a hiring the next day; and partly because Kelly wouldn't deny he was the coach! Conversely, there were several things that bothered me about the Kelly assumption, including the fact he'd be introduced to Iowa State fans just three days before his Central Michigan team played for a conference championship. Do you want a coach who would agree to that? We also had conflicting information. Some sources said "it's not Kelly", more said, "it is Kelly". Fortunately, I followed my gut and never went to air with a confirmed news story that it was Kelly. Some sources previously in the know at ISU no longer are.
Many of you have asked me how so many media outlets got it wrong. First of all, I think it's important to acknowledge that the local media did not get it wrong in a way that required a retraction. WHO-TV, KCCI, WOI and the Des Moines Register all reported that many signs pointed to Kelly, but some signs did not. All we can do is responsibly report everything we're hearing. We did the same thing on SoundOFF. It's an opinion show, and I said repeatedly that I think it's Kelly, but Shawn Terrell and I also pointed out some reasons to doubt that, such as Central Michigan players telling us shortly before the show that Kelly had not said anything to them about leaving. There was also the urban legend that Pollard was telling people the media had yet to identify the right guy. Maybe it wasn't legend after all.
I hate being wrong---even when giving a prediction---but Pollard is under no obligation to let the media in on his search. He has every right to try and keep it a secret, just as we have every right to try and figure it out. I think it will ultimately lead to more objectivity. If Pollard's not stroking anyone, you won't have to worry about compromised coverage, just as you shouldn't. That's good for everyone.
I do think the fact we were all off in our forecasting is a cautionary tale to slow down and take a breath. There's no reason anyone had to know before the day of the hiring. Afterall, many Cyclone fans were complaining about being left out of the loop, but you don't hear any backlash now. The most important thing is to get it right, and when you don't know for sure, say so. We did that.
I didn't learn from a reliable source that it was Chizik until 9:30 a.m. Monday morning. By then, my friend, John Walters, Voice of the Cyclones and WOI Sports Director, had already broken the news. Once it's out there, it's much easier to confirm. It's good for Iowa State that it got out there or you would have had a lot of people at the rally going, "Who is that?". Hardcore college football fans knew Chizik, but casual fans did not. The 9 hour heads-up gave everyone a chance to figure out that ISU had hired a guy fans should be excited to welcome. And they did.
If you'd like to learn more about what Chizik's like as a coach and person, I recommend the 5 minute 13Raw interview on the whotv.com sports page with Texas Longhorns sideline reporter Roger Wallace. You'll also find my live interview with Pollard and the 13Raw feed of the Chizik news conference and pep rally.
And that is most certainly enough Chizik for now, don't you think?
Monday, November 27, 2006
I was wrong. I thought the new coach would be Central Michigan's Brian Kelly, though I was never able to confirm it, and now we know why. I got a call early this morning from a source who has never been wrong, and he told me Kelly was out, Chizik was in.
Chizik's hire has energized the Cyclone fan base like no one else could, except DITKA! Chizik's thought by some to be the best assistant coach in America.
I talked with KXAN's Roger Wallace about Chizek. Roger meets with Chizek every week and works the sidelines for Texas football. He desribes Chizek as positive, intense and energetic. He says he's not a screamer, but definitely gets his point across. Chizek took the job at Texas with one thing in mind: becoming a head coach. He's a highly respected defensive coordinator who helped the Longhorns win a national championship last season. This year Texas has three losses and Chizik's defense took some criticism after being worked by K-State and Texas A&M.
I think it's another inspired hire by Jamie Pollard. And it's not Brian Kelly.
Tuesday, November 21, 2006
ISU Coaching Search: The only thing I know for sure, is that I'm not sure of anything. I've talked to every source I know, but the only one who really matters---Jamie Pollard---isn't talking. I've heard the same things you've read elsewhere, Jim Harbaugh was the early favorite, but Jay Norvell had a good interview. Norvell is also lobbying for the job in a BIG WAY. Keep in mind, he's an assistant, so he can let it leak how interested he is, while current head coaches have to be careful because most will have to go back to the jobs they're in now and pretend they're right where they want to be. It's how the game is played.
Norvell shows much promise as a head coach, but his hire would not cause a run on season tickets at ISU. He's the offensive coordinator at Nebraska, but Bill Callahan runs the show. The always entertaining Marty Tirrell, of KXNO's Marty & Miller, really put Norvell's name out there after Marty had a conversation with his dentist (Not making that up). Marty makes compelling points why it will be Norvell (e.g. Ties to Wisconsin, Alvarez, and key recruiting. Norvell lived in Ames and coached at ISU. He understands the job. He's worked for some of the best minds in coaching, etc.), but he lacks the WOW factor most fans hope for. I still think Pollard's privately talking to someone off our radar. We'll know for sure in the next ten days. I think you'll see an announcement on one of the next two Mondays, and you can expect a pep rally welcome like McDermott received---hopefully, with more fans.
The McCarney Hangover: No, this has nothing to do with Mac being "half in the bag" for his ESPN interview after the 2002 Nebraska game. The hangover is the funk still reverberating through the ISU athletic department. I think Pollard had to do what he did, but I also think he underestimated how beloved McCarney is in many Cyclone circles. You hear so much from the often critical vocal minority, that it's easy to overlook the more reasonable majority. I know this because I fight the same thing with all the SoundOFF feedback we receive.
There are key people at ISU who are having a hard time going forward after Mac was forced out. I've talked to three people who are downright despondent. They can talk for hours about all the things McCarney did for ISU both on and off the field, and they just don't understand how he could lose his job.
Pollard's next hire determines how he'll be remembered, and he knows it. I applaud him for being bold. Keeping Mac would have been the safe way out, but ISU won zero conference games in 2003, and just 1 this year (with help from a holding a call the Big 12 says it blew). No matter how much Dan did for ISU, and he did do more than any coach in history, there's no way season tickets at a higher price were going to sell at the volume Pollard needs. It's all about money these days. All.
McCarney's Feelings for Pollard: Mac took the high road and stayed on it. He showed so much class that it made more than a few fans question their thoughts that he should be fired. But don't think for a minute McCarney really has all those warm and fuzzy thoughts about Pollard. Mac did not want to resign, does not think it's best for ISU, and does not believe Pollard made the right decision. In his shoes, wouldn't we all feel the same?
Seniors Back Mac: Two different players told me the Seniors voted unanimously to not invite Pollard or President Geoffroy to the football banquet. As far as I know, or one of my sources could see, neither showed. I wouldn't read too much into the Seniors gesture either. Those close to Mac are intensely loyal. What would you expect?
Pollard Hired McDermott: And he's off to a great start. How nice was it to see the Cyclones playing team basketball at Minnesota. They're actually playing defense, rebounding and passing the ball through designed plays. They're also 5-0, which against the competition is no big deal, but it's impressive when you consider all the new players, no Hubalek, and a new system.
ISU will have some rough nights this season, but I'll stick with my prediction that the Clones will somehow have a winning record and make a run at the NIT. I think McDermott is that good. Remember, I think Pollard went into the interview process thinking Rob Jeter, but had the good sense to hire the more qualified candidate, one who wasn't even in the picture to start. That earns Pollard a little trust in the football process.
Hawkeyes Head to the Alamo Bowl: Iowa should buy the fans free tickets. The fans are the reason the Hawks get the nod over a team that just beat them (Minnesota). Few "teams" travel like Iowa. The Hawk fans show up in large numbers, and spend much cash. Bowl games are, first and foremost, a business. They'd love good teams and a great game, but not as much as they'd love a full house and millions pumped into the economy. Iowa usually provides both.
Kirk Ferentz gave much love to the fans at the news conference announcing Iowa's good fortune. Ferentz says he's not apologizing for going to a bowl game, and he shouldn't. There are, obviously, far too many bowls, and it's not his fault the Big Ten has an agreement with the Alamo, while Michigan and Ohio State moved into the BCS, so everyone in the conference moves up. But let's not kid ourselves. Iowa did not earn a bowl bid. Not after losing its final five conference games. Has a major conference school ever headed to a bowl on a worse skid??? I doubt it.
Ferentz Spin: I was disappointed to hear Kirk talk of the tremendous accomplishment of going to "six bowls in six years". This sounds a lot like the "5 bowls in 6 years" for which Hawk fans gave Dan McCarney a hard time, and rightly so.
With the new 12 game schedule, schools like Iowa and Iowa State play at least 3 games at home they expect to win easily---including 1AA opponents like Montana. That means, you need 3 more wins in 9 games to become bowl eligible. It's the exact formula Iowa used despite going 2-6 in the Big Ten. Truth is, reaching a bowl is no big deal anymore. Iowa fans should expect it every season.
Ferentz Salary: I'm sure the USA Today story showing Ferentz will make more than $4.7 million dollars in 13 months is causing the coach stress. The timing couldn't be worse. However, Ferentz deserves a pass from all Iowa fans. He's won two Big Ten titles in the past five years. He led Iowa to January bowl games in four consecutive seasons. Yes, he's an easy target for the label "overpaid", but he's a big reason Iowa sells out a newly renovated Kinnick Stadium every Saturday afternoon. The guess here is Ferentz will figure out what went wrong this season and fix it. He's earned that faith.
p.s. As one of you noted, Ferentz and his wife deserve props for donating $400,000 to University of Iowa hospitals. That's a huge chunk of change and will do a lot of good.
Let me know what you think...
Friday, November 10, 2006
Iowa State fans may have been divided about the direction of the Cyclone football program, but they are united in their appreciation for what Dan McCarney meant to Iowa State, and the way he handled his forced exit with class.
Jamie Pollard did a good job with a delicate and difficult situation. He's right, it's time for a change. Fans need someone new to re-energize Cyclone Nation. Even though it's hard to say after McCarney's moving farewell, there's no reason this year's football team should be that bad.
I urge all people who consider themselves Cyclone fans, to go to Saturday's final home game, even if it's cold, and show Mac the appreciation he deserves. Bring signs, leave the paper bags at home, and give McCarney a long standing ovation; Make it two. He won't want the attention, he'll want the spotlight on the Seniors, but this day should belong to the man who did more for Iowa State football than anyone in school history.
Nothing against the Valley Tigers---it's an amazing football program---but it's really cool to see Southeast Polk advance to the championship game. I wondered if the Rams would be intimidated by their first appearance in the Dome, against a team that's there every year, but Polk left no doubt, 27-14. It's not quite a "Hoosiers" story, but it's easy to see why the phone rang all night Friday with people calling, who have no ties to Southeast Polk. They just wanted to see David beat Goliath. Doesn't hurt that Southeast Polk won two games over Ankeny on the final play of the game with a kicker who's a dead-ringer for Anthony Michael Hall in Sixteen Candles. I hope the Rams win it all. (Note to college recruiters: Nate Snead can play. Someone find room for this guy. I don't care what his combine stats are, he can flat out play football.)
Saw "Stranger Than Fiction" with my mother today. I loved it. If you like books, especially works of fiction, you will LOVE this movie. Don't be deceived because Will Ferrell's in it. It's not Old School or Anchorman. It has humor, but it's subtle and sophisticated. Like Tom Hanks before him, Ferrell shows he can act in a drama. Dustin Hoffman and Emma Thompson are great, Maggie Gyllenhaal amazing. A-
My older boys love "Heroes", and I'm starting to get into it too. About time NBC had a hit.
Save the cheerleader, save the world.
I'll be back soon...
Thursday, November 02, 2006
The Departed: Best movie I've seen this year. Absolutely brilliant. The dialogue is incredible, the acting top notch, and the story gripping. If Martin Scorsese is passed over for an Academy Award again, they should stop giving out directing Oscars. All the actors are at the top of their games. Matt Damon has never been better, but I'm singling out Leonardo Dicaprio. I've seen Dicaprio proves he's the read deal a few times (What's Eating Gilbert Grape, Aviator, Gangs of New York), but I had no idea he could be this good. The Departed also reminds us when Mark Wahlberg is good, he's very good (Boogie Nights), and when he's bad, he's very bad (Planet of the Apes). Here's he's electric.
The movie earns its R rating, so don't go if rough language and brutal violence turn you off. Otherwise, do not miss. The Departed gets an A.
Flicka: Went to this one with my mother. She loved it. The Wyoming scenery (if that really is Wyoming) is awe-inspiring, as is Tim McGraw's toupee. It's the often told story of a girl who wants to be like dad (a rancher), but dad wants her to be more girl-like. Any father and teenage daughter who go to this will need a box of tissues. It's good, although the fact I know Alison Lohman is 27 and was playing McGraw's young teenage daughter did bother me. It's not quite 34 year old Stockard Channing playing a high school Senior in Grease, but it's close. B- for Flicka. (Flicka is the horse).
Flyboys: Saw this at the Nova. $5 for a movie, popcorn and a pop. Can't beat that. Second-run theaters are having a hard time though. They're often showing movies just a few weeks before they're released on DVD, and that makes it a tough sell to many. Not me. There's nothing like a a theater. The shared experience, the undivided attention, the big screen... plus, in this one, I got to hold my girlfriend's hand. Well, at least until my hand fell asleep.
Flyboys is a good, old fashioned World War II picture. Action, romance, heroism... had it all. I'll give this one a B. If they're ever looking for someone to play James Dean, James Franco is a shoo-in. Never mind, I just remembered he already played Dean.
Flags of our Fathers: Incredible story. Clint Eastwood takes the most iconic war photograph in American history and shows how it was used to further fund the U-S war effort. Eastwood makes all of the flag-raisers human, and therefore real. None considered themselves heroes, and all but one would never get past their guilt for being singled out when they felt the real heroes had died at Iwo Jima. I highly recommend anyone 14 or older go see this. It's not quite the masterpiece I hoped for---the story never quite casts the spell it should---but it's still very good. A-
The Prestige: I had no idea what to expect from this movie about rival magicians. I'm still not 100% sure what happened at the end, but I think I got it. Should have known the director of Memento would keep me guessing. Props to lead actors Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale. Scarlett Johansson's cleavage has a supporting role. B+
Jackass Number 2: Can't believe what these guys will do for a laugh. Crude, rude and undeniably funny. Some of it is so gross, I nearly puked (the horse scene, the dollhouse), but when it's funny, it's REALLY funny. B-
Open Season: Saw this with my son, Colin. He's 2 1/2. He kind of liked it, but I think even he recognized he'd seen this story before. Same old, same old with some nice voice work by Iowan Ashton Kutcher and Martin Lawrence. Not sure where he's from. B
The Guardian: Speaking of Kutcher, he bought his former Iowa High School brand new football equipment. All he asked in return was that they go see The Guardian. It's basically Officer and a Gentleman meets Top Gun, but it's good. A little long, but done well. I learned a lot about the Coast Guard. I'm always amazed and humbled by people who put their lives on the line every day to save strangers. Kevin Costner is also good in this movie. He's wearing his age well. Another B.
Jet Li's Fearless: My dad loves movies, just as I do. Or rather, I love them, just as he does. Dad doesn't hear so well these days, so he can only watch movies on DVD with closed-captioning. He likes action movies, so when I saw Jet Li's latest was in a foreign language with subtitles, I took my father back to the movies. This was a surprisingly touching story about the life of a man who learns some tough lessons and becomes a hero to an entire nation. B for Fearless. A+ for getting to see it with my Dad. It's his birthday as I write this. Please indulge me. He reads this blog.
Happy Birthday Dad. I love you. Thanks for always being so good to me. We miss you here in Iowa.
Thursday, October 26, 2006
Are you kidding me?! I'm going to have to be fitness celebrity John Basedow for Halloween SoundOFF?? What exactly is a "fitness celebrity"? (If you somehow don't know who John Basedow is, watch ESPN on Mediacom for at least 15 minutes, you'll quickly learn how to "turn your life around".) It's not too late to change the vote. There's a poll on our sports page. I suppose it's better than being Pedro again.
Andy won't be humiliated. His vote is leaning heavily toward Earl Hickey of "My Name Is Earl". Not only is that a funny look, that's a funny show (even if it should pay royalties to the great "Raising Arizona"). Actually, Earl looks a lot like my Senior picture. Hey, it was 1982. Everybody wanted to look like the Bandit.
Staying with TV shows, NBC is moving Friday Night Lights to a later time in hopes of saving this terrific show. I agree with Chad's comment on this blog last week that the jerky camera movements grow a little tiresome, but the show rings true---especially for those of us who were around high school football in the South, where it means way too much to many people. Monday at 9 this week. Give it a shot.
What's going on with Grey's Anatomy? The past two weeks the show has made Izzie look absolutely ridiculous. Are they trying to remind us it's only a TV show? Last week, in a completely unbelievable plot, Izzie stood outside the hospital in the same spot debating whether to go in---for 12 hours! This past week, she walked around with a crumpled up check for nearly $9 million dollars, and then she pinned it to her fridge! Yeah, that's believable. Find this woman a new storyline, or write her out of the show.
I've given up on ABC's The Nine. Just took too long to develop. I also bailed on NBC's Kidnapping. Not enough revealed each week. 24 is that rare show you know won't tie everything up each week, but enough happens to make it worth your time. It's a tough act to pull off.
I'm hanging with Studio 60, but I think it helps that I work in television. My parents and girlfriend both tried the show, but didn't love it. I love Aaron Sorkin's writing, so I'm hoping he can steer this show back toward the pilot's tone---or his early West Wing years.
My older kids love "Heroes". Against all odds, this has become NBC's biggest new hit (next to Sunday Night Football).
Enough TV, let's do a few quick hitters on sports:
World Series: If you're a Cardinals fan, or Tigers fan, you probably love it. For the rest of us, it's been a dud. No real drama, other than Kenny Rogers got caught cheating but won't admit it. Feels like the Cardinals will win in six, and that will make Andy Fales unbearable for Cubs fans like me.
Cyclone fans calling for a new football coach: Pointless right now. The team has four games left and Jamie Pollard says he won't evaluate anything until after the season. I believe him. I also believe Pollard thinks Dan McCarney is the right man for the job. Pollard knows his history and appreciates what Mac's accomplished at Iowa State. However, Pollard needs to raise $130 million dollars. If too many fans give up on McCarney, Pollard will have to make a change. Iowa State needs to sell more football season tickets, not fewer, and to do that fans need hope. Nothing sells like hope. ISU has missed too many opportunities for that elusive "next step" in the Mac era, and hope is dying fast.
Hawkeye fans want Christensen: It's natural for fans to want the chance of greatness, which they know does not exist with Jason Manson (at least not at quarterback). Manson has looked awful in his two meaningful games, although to be fair, they were both tough road environments (at Iowa State and at Syracuse). I'm with the fans on this one though. Start Christensen. Let him build his confidence against overmatched Northern Illinois.
Tate's Surgery: We broke this story, but could have done better. We had the timeline wrong on Tate's surgery. Two sources in the Iowa football program told us Drew was having surgery on his left thumb Monday. Unbeknownst to them, University Hospitals was unable to fit Tate in until early Tuesday morning. I apologize for the error. We expect 100% accuracy and should have pressed our sources more. I also should have altered the wording to "Drew Tate is scheduled to have surgery". Fortunately, a third source gave us exact details of the surgery several hours before Iowa released or confirmed any information. This allowed us to get to the point we expect all the time: 100% accurate.
Ferentz fired up: I love it that Kirk stands up for his players. Isn't that what you'd want if you played for him? Or had a son playing for him? This week's news conference was the most interesting of the year. In other words, not boring. And I hope you saw Shawn Terrell's coverage Tuesday night at 10. He did a great job of showing Ferentz Unplugged.
Drake's Dollar Night: Okay, so next to nobody showed up. Still, it was a great idea. Dollar admission, dollar hot dogs, dollar popcorn. The weather was miserable, and so was the game. San Diego steamrolled the Dogs, but this idea should return (the dollars, not the steamrolling). It's a great stadium, nice family atmosphere and pretty good football. More should try it. (Full disclosure: we planned to go Saturday night, walked outside, went right back in and watched a movie. $1 is not a bargain when it's cold and wet.)
Some more things I really like about Des Moines:
Tasty Tacos: Alan suggested this one. Alan's right. These are the best tacos in the world. That's right, the world. I don't even mind standing in a long line. Delicious.
Bauder's Soda Fountain: Also a viewer suggestion, also right on the money. I go for the grilled cheese and vanilla shake. Like going back in time. You expect Marty McFly and Biff to pull up on the stools next to you.
Ed Wilson: I love Ed. People always ask me what Ed's like. He's just like he is on TV: funny, bright and energetic. What doesn't come completely across is how nice he is. Ed would do anything to help a friend, and in my case did. I'll never forget how great Ed and his wife, Angela, were to me during the rough period when I suddenly found myself as a single dad.
Erin & John: I look forward to seeing these two every day. John is the kind of person we'd all like to be. I call him the "king of credibility". He's much more intelligent than I is, but he never makes me feel that way. Also a big sports fan. Gotta like that (and yes, John, I know "gotta" is not a word).
Erin is smart, personable and real. I think the reason so many viewers feel like they know her is she doesn't "act" on TV, she's herself. Fortunately for her, it's hard not to like the real her.
I know, I know... "does he really like the people he works with that much?" Yes. I hope you're just as blessed as I am.
I've been on vacation a few days here and there the past few weeks. I'm prepping for a long run in November, trying to spend as much time as I can with the kids.
Thank you for all the feedback. I always read it, and appreciate your thoughts and suggestions.
Thursday, October 19, 2006
And now to some of the things I enjoy about Des Moines...
Varsity Theater: Locally owned, in the heart of the Drake campus, and often showing movies not mainstream enough to play in the cookie-cutter multiplexes. The best part is a visit to the concession stand. It's downright jarring to find pop and candy less than half what you pay at Century Theatres or Wynnsong. The prices are actually reasonable. Imagine that. Plus, some selections of stuff you remember from your childhood but don't find anywhere else (Snowcaps!). Bonus points to owner Bev Mahon (a man), for always telling me, "You look taller in person". He's the only one.
Cooney's Tavern: Not quite like being in Ireland, but the next best thing in Des Moines. The bar feels authentic, albeit a little nicer than the actual pubs in Ireland. I'm not quite a "regular"---can't be with kids---but I've been enough that when I found myself surprisingly low on cash---did I mention kids?---owner Brian Cooney told me to get him next time. I brought the money the next day. I hate owing anyone money.
The Irish Shoppe: This place in Valley Junction has some cool stuff, and the place gets bonus points for helping out my parents. They went in and said they wanted to buy a poster for their son that was hanging in the Cooney's bathroom. They weren't sure what it was, but it had something to do with old, dead Irish guys. The nice lady at the Shoppe went over to Cooney's and checked out the poster and special ordered it for mom & dad. It hangs above the computer as I type. It's called "Irish Writers" and shows pictures of 12 of the best along with a few lines of their famous works. For example, Samuel Beckett, "Perhaps my best years are gone... but I wouldn't want them back. Not with the fire in me now." Or George Bernard Shaw, "An Irishman's heart is nothing but his imagination." I like that. (Beckett to the left, Shaw below. Tell me there aren't stories in those faces.)
The Des Moines Playhouse. Love this place. Cool building, great entertainment, nice people. I always enjoy the way kids respond to live theater when they're used to movies and television. My two little ones, Cade 5 and Colin 2, loved the recent Stinky Cheese Man more than any movie they saw this year. The Graduate is up next (that's nothing like Stinky Cheese Man).
(Hey, look at that! I'm finally putting pictures on my blog. I'm no Erin Kiernan, but it's a start!)
95KGGO Arena: I can't add much to what Andy said in one of his classic What's Bugging Andys. I'm not sure I agree this is the best place to see a game in the state of Iowa, but it's definitely top five. When you go watch the Des Moines Bucs, you are right on top of the ice, and the fans are knowledgeable, and really into it (some, perhaps, have a little too much spirit because they've had a little too much spirits). Colin, who you may recall from a previous paragraph is two years old, starts chanting "Let's Go Bucs!" every time we drive by the Arena.
KXNO: I lived here a long time with no sports radio, really enjoyed the days when we had three choices for stations, and now listen frequently to the last one standing: KXNO.
Des Moines Register Sports: I hear a lot of grumbling about how the Register isn't what it was in the good ol' days, and perhaps that true, but it's still part of daily breakfast for me. I haven't changed since I was a kid. Pour a bowl of cereal, prop the sports section between the bowl and the jug of milk, eat. Repeat. I do miss the Big Peach though.
The Funny Bone: I've really missed the Funny Bone since it closed out the old location a few weeks back. Fortunately, the new one opens soon in West Des Moines and not only will it be a much nicer location and venue, it will be SMOKE FREE! Can't wait. A good laugh is good for the soul.
Newton Drive-In: Closed for the winter, but always a fun night with the family. Feels like stepping back in time. Speaking of that...
Living History Farms: The old fashioned Family Halloween Nights is coming up, and it's a can't miss for us. We did feel a little silly the first time we went because two of the kids had on really scary Friday the 13th type costumes. This isn't that kind of Halloween. We went home and changed. (Full disclosure: Channel 13 is a sponsor of this) . How 'bout another logo... I'm on a roll:
Cityview: It's always good for a city to have an alternative newspaper that doesn't answer to a corporate conglomerate. Sure, some of what passes for "news" is just mean-spirited gossip planted by sources with their own hidden agendas, and often flat our wrong, but Cityview gets a lot right too. The lengthy investigative stories showcase young journalists working really hard.
I often pick up a copy of Cityview. Heck, they're everywhere. You can't swing a dead cat without a hitting a Cityview stand. I especially enjoy the paper's food, movie and TV reviews. I think they're mostly right on target, although I disagree on Friday Night Lights. It's a great show, but give the Cityview critic credit, apparently no one's watching but me. Save this show! Oh yeah, and the "Think You're Funny" picture caption contest. Classic.
More good things about Des Moines next time... Please let me know some of your favorites too.
Monday, October 16, 2006
Now that was a party!
As you may have heard, or read, we celebrated 500 SoundOFF shows Saturday night at Legends. We had a lot of fun. Maybe too much fun.
I don't think I've ever even tailgated for 11 hours, but that's how long we kept it going. Started at 4, finished at 3. We were fortunate to have a designated driver and a real cool custom conversion van from Jim Jensen's Crescent Chevrolet. For reasons known only to him, salesman Brody volunteered to drive us around (Andy, Round Guy, my mom, Jenny and me) and never have a drink. He's our new favorite guy. Thank you, Brody. And a big shout out to Amanda. She did all the work.
SoundOFF receives thousands of E-mails a year, but many names become familiar. We also have regular callers. It was really fun to see the faces behind the words. For instance, Shane in Marshalltown is a writing pro. He's a big Hawkeye fan, and writes some of the cleverest stuff in Iowa, only he's not paid. Andy and I both pictured him far different than he is. Then again, he said the same about us, and he's watched us on TV for years (with me, people usually say I look younger, better, and shorter than they expected. This is not necessarily good news when you make your living on TV, but I take it as a compliment)
I think the Hawkeyes stunning loss at Indiana kept a few Hawk fans from the party, ISU fans expected the Cyclones to lose, but we were thrilled with the hundreds of people who did show during the 5 p.m. to 1 a.m. stretch. We did meet a viewer who looks just like Jeff Horner meets Jim Carrey in the Cable Guy, another twin for Woody Harrelson in Natural Born Killers, and it was good to finally meet Madonna. I was surprised she doesn't drink.
As the night progressed, Andy and I noticed more and more TV people showing up. We're like vampires apparently. You can see pictures of Erin, Courtney, Jeriann, Meisenheimer, Round Guy, Heather, and some of our friends from KCCI, on Erin's blog. What you won't see is a picture of Andy. He's notoriously camera shy. It was nice to have our co-workers and colleagues stop by. Also making the rounds: The Cotman, Shawn Terrell, Jon Cahill, Jannay Towne, Todd Bailey, B.Ross, Jon Miller and Bryce Miller---lot of Millers. Most of them were Lite, and empty.
Anyway, it was fun. Big thank you to Jenny for having the patience of Job. I did a lot of talking and very little of it was with her. Understanding goes a long way in a relationship.
I appreciate all your nice comments the past week. Not sure if I'll make it to 600, but someone will. I hope to be at that party too.
Tuesday, October 10, 2006
One of my loyal readers has threatened me with bodily harm if I don't write about something other than Iowa and Iowa State football, so... here's to my health!
SoundOFF 500: As first revealed here, we're throwing a party Saturday night (10/14) at the original Legends in West Des Moines (60th & Ashworth); you're invited. We're giving away a lot of cool door prizes including the limited edition SoundOFF T-shirts from Tailgate. We've had to assign a security guard to these at work, but so far not one has walked away. Admission to the party is free. It runs from 6 to close. Arrive early for a good seat. Chris from Green Bay will not be attending.
Ten years ago, when SoundOFF started, it seemed like such a novel idea. The hosts giving strong opinions and viewers having a voice. There were skeptics from the start but the ratings (number of people watching) far exceeded all expectations right away and the audience is now bigger than ever. I sincerely thank you for that (I'm hoping you watch. If not, just pass that "thank you" to someone who does). SoundOFF seemed somewhat unique a decade ago, but now ESPN, FSN, Mediacom and many others do similar shows.
The biggest change we ever had was Andy Fales taking over as co-host for Round Guy. Andy used to work behind the scenes on SoundOFF, but all night long he would complain about whatever was bugging him. He never smiled, but he sure made us laugh. That's how "What's Bugging Andy?" came about. I just said to Andy, "Save some of your material for the viewers. We're putting you on each week for two minutes. We'll call it 'What's Bugging Andy?'." It was a huge hit from the start. Some loved it, some hated it, but no one ignored it. The reason What's Bugging Andy is so good, I think, is that Andy's not trying to be anyone else. He might dial it up a little, but that's him. If you've been around Andy, you know that's him. I've been accused of overdoing my laugh, providing Andy with his own Ed McMahon, but I'm not acting. Some of what he says is flat out hilarious. He's also poignant and insightful at times. I don't agree with all of what comes out of Andy's piehole, but we're lucky to have someone in this market telling it like he thinks it is. It's appointment television for a lot of people.
After Andy hit big, my boss, Mark Ginther, decided we needed to make Andy the co-host. Good for Andy, good for the station, and good for the viewers. But what would Round Guy think after playing a big part in a successful show for seven years? I dreaded having to tell him because he's always been so good to me and everyone else at channel 13, not to mention the fact he had to put up with countless callers over the years coming up with schoolyard bully gems like, "Hey Round Guy, you're fat". The news of no longer hosting each week disappointed RG, but he understood, and he handled it with grace and class. In fact, Round Guy (Steve Pilchen) went out of his way to make Andy feel okay about it, as well as the audience. I'm indebted to him for that. I'll make sure he drinks and eats from Saturday night. I'm lucky to have Steve as a friend.
Looking back over 500 shows, I think the comment I hear most frequently from people is, "You do a good job of putting up with those crazy callers"... or some variation. Yes, many of the calls are wacky, but that's part of what makes for a good show. And those people are our friends, neighbors and rivals. Most of our viewers are intelligent, but if they call in, they're quickly forgotten. It's the nutjobs we all remember most. Just like Ed gets the forecast right most of the time, but we dwell on the misses.
SoundOFF is such a blessing for our sports department because we have immediate feedback whenever anything happens. Iowa State wasn't even off the field Saturday night when e-mails started coming in about the need for a coaching change. We're well aware that people who are angry, disillusioned or disappointed are more likely to write or call than people feeling blissful, and we take that into account. For instance, ISU loses to Nebraska while Iowa pummels Purdue and the Cyclone e-mailers and callers outnumber the Hawkeyes 10 to 1.
We have a big microphone on that show, and I've always tried to use it fairly. I never shy away from giving my opinion, but I try to never make it personal. Sometimes we realize we're being critical of people who try very hard and care very much about what they're doing. If you lose the SoundOFF audience, you're in trouble.
We've had many guests and substitute co-hosts over the years. Here are my impressions on a few:
Tim Dwight: One of my favorite guys. Never gives you the tired answers or dull opinions. TD will tell you just what he thinks. He's an adrenaline junkie who's trying to squeeze every ounce of fun out of life. We should all be more like that. Great guy. Loves the movie Zoolander. He can quote every line and hit you with Blue Steel or Magnum.
Kirk Ferentz: Called in every time we've ever asked. Just as willing to do it during the great seasons as he was when losing in the early years. Kirk is the real deal. I've written about my high opinion of him many times, so I won't get carried away, but Hawkeye fans should hope this guy never leaves, and not just because he's winning.
Governor Tom Vilsack: Loves sports. He doesn't come by to campaign, he just really wants to talk about his Steelers (and woeful Pirates). He's also up for poking fun at himself, and makes no demands or requests whatsoever. Smarter people than me can decide what kind of Governor he's been, but as a regular guy talking sports, I really like him.
Jamie Pollard: Down to earth, and very smart. He's the kind of guy you immediately feel comfortable talking to, something that was always a problem for his predecessor Bruce Van De Velde.
Pollard has created endless excitement and buzz since he took over at ISU. I'm not sure he'll find all the money he needs in Cyclone country, but I think he's right to Think Big.
When he was on SoundOFF, I got overly protective and talked too much. Anytime a caller said something slightly rude or asked a sarcastic question, I jumped in. Pollard can speak for himself; he doesn't need me to do it. My heart was in the right place. I always want our guests to have a pleasant experience, but people watching wanted to hear more from him, and less from me.
Kurt Warner: Never felt like I knew Kurt very well, though he was always friendly. He went from asking to come by to talk about his try-out with the Packers to being unreachable after winning back-to-back MVPs, but that was just the fame comet Kurt was on. I doubt his people ever even let him know little ol' Des Moines was trying to get in touch. To this day, anytime we see Kurt, he's always nice.
Reggie Roby: What a good guy. I was so sad when he died young. Reggie brought us Cookies that he was selling nationwide, and Round Guy ate up all the profits. I used to love watching Reggie punt. He somehow had his kicking foot way over his head, but the other foot would stay grounded. And man could he boom a football. Wore a wristwatch in games.
Mike Nurse: Came in right after ISU lost to Michigan State in the Elite 8. Nurse was always a good interview and he didn't disappoint on SoundOFF. Funny stories all night. Nurse said everyone knew whoever won that game with MSU would win the national championship. He was right.
Steve Deace: Filled in many times. Steve is so smart it's hard to believe he didn't finish college. He has a memory for details like Jim Zabel. I often disagree with Steve, especially on religion and politics, but I always appreciate and respect a person not afraid to give his opinions. Steve doesn't fake it. He speaks from the heart. He's not ranting for ratings. Well, he is, but only because he believes what he's saying.
Marc Hansen: Marc wrote a nice column about his appearance on SoundOFF. It's been years, but I remember he couldn't believe how people were more concerned with his appearance than what he actually said. Welcome to television. Talk to Erin Kiernan about some of the e-mails and calls she receives. "Comb your hair" was one of the comments Marc heard on the air. "You look like you need sleep" was another. What can I say, it's a shallow, cosmetic business at times, but anyone who looks like Luke Skywalker shouldn't worry about that.
I think Sean Keeler is really coming into his own at the Register. I always read Sean; he's doing a good job, but like many people, I miss Marc's sports columns. He was appointment reading for all Iowa and Iowa State sports fans. And Marc said he always got the same thing I do: Cyclone fans accused him of being a Hawkeye and Hawkeye fans accused him of being a Cyclone.
Marty Tirrell: Very entertaining. I always stop what I'm doing to listen to Marty (and Miller) because you just never know what Marty will say next. He asked if he could be on SoundOFF before he moved back East, and he did not disappoint. Some of his takes were off, "Kirk Ferentz will never be accepted at Iowa because he won't escape Bob Stoops' shadow", but some were dead-on, "Kurt Warner is like a tire with no tread left. He's worn out and won't come close to another MVP". (Warner has since been benched by three teams). And don't let this out, but Marty is actually a nice guy. Not mean at all. He just knows listeners don't like fence-sitting wafflers.
Dan McCarney: Called in when we asked him to after ISU finally beat Iowa. He agreed even though "The Dan McCarney Show" was on a different channel at the same time. For that reason, I've tried not to put him in that tough spot again. McCarney is well aware of what's being said on SoundOFF---it's like a townhall meeting, so it makes sense to keep up on it.
I like Dan and think he's done more for ISU football than any person ever. However, all those players who would run through a wall for him and all those assistant coaches who want to pay him back for his loyalty better step up and stop underachieving or Dan's in trouble. True, the team is 3-3, just what I expected, but the Cyclones are 3 plays from 0-6 and they've looked sloppy, predictable and, at times, overmatched. At ISU, you must overachieve. So far, these Cyclones look like underachievers. Not good with record crowds watching. And no more silly spin (Last week's "One of only 54 teams undefeated at home", etc. Needed that ten years ago. Now many fans find it insulting.)
Sorry. This is supposed to be about SoundOFF.
Ross Verba: Funny guy with a lot of good stories from Green Bay. I thought Ross would be a Hall-of-Famer. Didn't work out that way, but he could be good on TV if he ever wanted to try something else.
Chris from Green Bay: We don't hear from Chris much anymore, but boy could he rile people up. He actually only called every month or so, but his putdowns were so memorable, it seemed everybody thought he was on all the time. I'd constanly hear comments like, "How come Chris can get in every week when I've been calling for months and all I ever hear is a busy signal?". Here's a secret: we eventually gave Chris a backdoor number. When your calls are that lively, you need to be heard.
I knew Chris when he lived in Des Moines. He's actually one of the most thoughtful people I know, but he always wanted to be a WWF villain, and SoundOFF gave him a chance to come close. Man, was he good. Or bad. Depending how you look at it.
Holden Kushner: Do you remember this guy? He was on local sports radio. Very talented. Only co-hosted once but he was the favorite of our crew. Why? Because they get really tired of lame calls, and Holden said things like, "That's a really stupid call. What are you, an idiot?". He left Des Moines and I always expect to hear him on a national show.
Rob Borsellino: He also asked to come on the show before he and his family moved to Florida. Rob told me his sons would think it's pretty cool if he were on SoundOFF. Rob told great stories about growing up in New York City and living for the Yankees.
I miss Rob. And I know I'm not alone.
Jon Miller: Multi-media star of the 21st century. Jon's doing a little bit of everything and doing it all well. The Des Moines market improved when Jon came to town.
Jim Zabel: Z wore a headset so he'd feel more comfortable. Actually, it was a gag we set up, but Jim will go along with anything for a laugh. Jim is a giant in broadcasting. I mean that. Poke fun at his Hawkeye homerism and self-promoting tendencies all you want, he's interviewed more legends than anyone in Iowa sports history (and worked alongside Ronald Reagan). Z has also taught me a lot about energy. He just loves working and he never takes it personally when someone yells a putdown at him. He's just glad they're paying attention. I've also seen him pick up the check! Yes, I'm the one.
That's a long enough trip down memory lane. I doubt many people make it this far, but I got on a roll. Lot of memories in ten years.
I'm humbled by the hundreds of people who come up to me each year and tell me they love SoundOFF. My favorite comment that I get a lot is from people who say they don't really like sports, but they're hooked on the show. I can think of no bigger compliment. Thank you.
And a special thank you to all the people behind the scenes who work just as hard as Andy and I, but get none of the credit. B.Ross, Chad, Jen, J.T., Angry Intern,---to name a few---Thank you.
Hope to see you Saturday.
Monday, October 02, 2006
ISU escapes: Wow. I didn't think it was possible the most talked about college football game of the weekend would end up being UNI at Iowa State. That's what happens when the Cyclones have to pull a Houdini to beat a 1AA team in front of a record crowd. Cyclones fans felt relief, not jubilation, and the next night on SoundOFF, they sounded like ISU had lost, not won.
First of all, props to UNI. As I've said many times, the Panthers have one of the best 1AA programs in America. But even a great 1AA team should NEVER beat a good division 1 team. Now we know: Iowa State isn't good. Not yet. 1AA teams, like UNI, have a much smaller budget, inferior facilities, far fewer scholarships, and smaller, slower players; that's not a knock on UNI, it's just reality. Cyclone fans had flashbacks to the 90s, and there's no doubt they thought the days of sweating the Panthers were over.
Nancy Clark's column: The Des Moines Register writer basically said if Iowa State had lost, Dan McCarney would soon need a new job. I'm not sure I'd go that far, but I respect Nancy for having an opinion and getting it out there. She might be right too. The record crowd proves Jamie Pollard and his staff can get people in the seats, but if Cyclone Nation loses faith in the football program, all the plans requiring big dollars die on the vine. Pollard can't have that. And I can promise you, a loss to UNI would have caused a full-scale Cyclone meltdown. It nearly did anyway, and ISU won.
Iowa fans: Take a bow. That was an impressive weekend of showing just how much Hawkeye football means to tens of thousands in our state. ESPN's College Football Gameday has never seen anything like the reception Hawk fans provided.
As I watched the game on ABC, I got goosebumps. The gold clad fans provided an astonishing atmosphere for a college football game. When the blimp took one of those overhead shots, it made Iowa City look like the center of the college football universe. And then they played...
The fans couldn't have done more. They provided Iowa with a great home field advantage, but that's only worth so much... maybe a touchdown. Sometimes it comes down to the team with better players, and Ohio State was dominant. If Iowa played perfectly, which it didn't, and Ohio State made a bunch of mistakes, which it didn't, the Hawks could win. Otherwise, it's a mismatch.
I think we learned both the Hawks and Clones aren't as good as we hoped. But the fans, now that's another story...
Thursday, September 28, 2006
ISU will beat UNI by 20+. If the Cyclones don't win this game easily, we'll know they aren't very good. That's not a shot at UNI, the Panthers are a great division 1AA program, but no good D1 football team should lose to a 1AA. Never. Ever. Those two UNI wins vs. ISU in the 90s are perfect examples of how the upset happens: Bad D1 team + good 1AA team = embarrassment/jubiliation. If it happens again Saturday, ISU will have a very disappointing season. I don't think it will.
Ohio State is too much for Iowa. I'd love to pick Iowa. I've tried to talk myself into it. I know Iowa has lost just one game at Kinnick Stadium the past three and a half seasons, but I still can't do it. The Hawks haven't shown me enough; the Bucks have shown me too much. The pick is Ohio State by 10, but I hope I'm wrong. How cool would it be to beat the #1 team in the nation?!
Thursday, September 21, 2006
Tailgating: Insane. This started about 6 p.m. the night before the game. It was obvious many of the people who wandered by our live location Saturday morning had not slept at all. The 11 a.m. kick-off put many of the partiers in the quandary of waking up at 5 a.m. or just going all night. Many chose all night.
It's no secret gorging on food and alcohol has long been a game day tradition for many fans, but when you're sober and working, as I was, it really strikes you how, in some ways, the party is now bigger than the game. Make no mistake about it, the game gets in the way for more than a few.
I was live on the air all morning on Today in Iowa Saturday, which by the way is a really entertaining two hours. Courtney Greene and Dan Winters do a great job of being informative and fun. I digress. I was working and so many nice people came up and talked to me. Most were drunk, or on their way. All looked 21 and none were driving. As long as you're not ruining my fun, and not driving a car where you endanger lives including your own... enjoy the party!
However, one thing that happened on the show brings up an interesting discussion, and it's been kicked around the newsroom all week. Shawn Terrell was at a tailgate during our coverage, and an Iowa student celebrating her 21st birthday drank a beer funnel on camera (sometimes known as a beer bong. It transports the alcohol down your throat in seconds). The moment I saw it, I knew we'd get calls. Show people drinking on TV, especially in the morning and to excess, and someone's offended. I understand and appreciate that. As a dad myself, I'd use the opportunity to talk about it with a curious kid. On the other hand, I appreciate that it makes drinking look like a lot of fun, which it can be.
Drinking and partying is a HUGE part of the Iowa - Iowa State game day atmosphere. Not everyone of age drinks, but most do. Is it our job to sanitize the news and pretend it doesn't go on? Or is it okay to show drinking, but only if it's subdued? Should we not show it at all? Or should we show it all, including the wild scenes we stayed away from? I don't think there's an easy answer. My inclination would be to try and avoid the binge drinking, look for more moderate tailgates, and also find the occasional dry party, but make no mistake about it: the party is all around, and most of the people I saw were above college age. (Please post your view on the discussion board.)
No Alchohol Hypocrisy: Here's where it gets ridiculous. You can't drink inside Kinnick Stadium or Jack Trice Stadium... unless you donate a bunch of money, then you can have whatever you like, mixed drinks, beer, wine. Rent a luxury box for tens of thousands of dollars and suddenly the "no drinking at a college game" doesn't apply---not that it completely does anyway. I've seen some creative ways to sneak alcohol: binoculars, flasks, even watched a Cyclone fan at Oklahoma drink out of a football. The fan was dressed as the Heisman Trophy in honor of Seneca Wallace. "Heisman" would just tip that ball up whenever he needed a hit. Wallace had such an awful game, he went from front-runner to no votes, but that fan didn't feel any pain. Until the next day.
Game Day Traffic: Ridiculous. Took us nearly two hours to travel two miles. We were like that guy in Office Space, being passed by elderly people with walkers. I know there's construction---there's always construction---but why is it so bad? And now fans tell me there's no place to park either. I should thank Iowa for the nice parking pass. Sounds like we'd be in Coralville without it.
Kinnick Stadium: Looks great. This was my first game since they renovated the place, and it's better than ever. The entire atmosphere in Iowa City is fantastic, except for the traffic lines.
Speaking of traffic, I thought they put in a bunch of bathrooms?! Must have been for the women because I waited 15 minutes for a urinal. It was downright claustrophobic.
Oh yeah, the Game: I picked Iowa by 11, and it ended up being 10, but it was closer than that, and closer than I expected. ISU had Iowa in trouble in the second quarter. The home crowd was all but out of it, but Drew Tate found his rhythm and led that all-important drive before the half. Iowa State then sat on the ball. Wrong message. I know the thinking was "take the 14-10 lead on the road and get to the locker room", but I think it left Iowa with all the momentum.
For similar reasons, I agree with going for it on 4th and 10. McCarney's right. It's likely Iowa would have run the clock out. ISU's defense was worn down. Remember, ISU only missed by a couple feet. Bret Meyer probably should have taken the tackler on, but he must have thought he could get it by diving. He didn't.
The better team won. And the best player on the field was, hands down, Drew Tate. As I've said before, there may be a better college football player, but none more valuable. As he goes, so goes Iowa. If Tate plays the game of his life, Iowa could upset Ohio State. If he doesn't, it won't be close.
Iowa at Illinois: This would be the perfect game to rest Tate. The Illini are horrible.
ISU at Texas: Iowa State played its best game in the Dan McCarney era last year at Texas A&M in front of 80,000+, which is encouraging, but this aint Texas A&M (try to read that last one with a Texas drawl... kind of like Will Ferrell as President Bush). Texas by 24.
Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip: Phenomenal. Written by Aaron Sorkin. This is NBC's best show since... well, Aaron Sorkin wrote the West Wing. Once he left, so did the magic. Bradley Whitford and Matthew Perry have incredible chemistry and timing, both of which are needed to make Sorkin's words dance. This is the guy who wrote the incomparable "A Few Good Men". ("You can't handle the truth!"... "I have no responsibilities whatsoever"... "Is the colonel's underwear a matter of national security? ... "You don't need a patch on your arm to have honor"... "Does Aunt Ginny have a barn? Maybe we could hold the trial there. I'll sew the costumes and maybe Uncle Goober can be the judge"... "I get sick when I fly because I'm afraid of crashing into a large mountain, I don't think Dramamine'll help"... "Joanne, I'd like you to leave the room so we can talk about you behind your back")
Truly must-see TV. The grade is A.
Kidnapping: Great cast, interesting premise, 24 like pacing... too soon to tell. A B+ for the first show though.
Biggest Loser: We needed more Round Guy! I watched this for two hours and had to look for Round Guy like you look for the ghost kid in Three Men and a Baby. C for Can't watch without Round Guy.
Iowa Speedway: Other than the absolutely inexplicable decision to debut the track the weekend of the Iowa State - Iowa football game, this was a rousing success. Looks BIGTIME on TV and in person. Would have 937% more media coverage, if it hadn't been the week of Iowa's biggest sporting event, by far.
SoundOFF 500th Show Party: Don't forget, October 14th at Legends in West Des Moines. Andy will buy you a drink.
Blog feedback: Thank you for the comments.
Mike, I agree the UNLV coach let his emotions get the best of him. I talked to some colleagues in Vegas, and they say he's a good guy. He just knew what a benchmark win it would be for his program. And as we saw this past weekend at Oregon, officiating is terrible at times. communication must improve. That was the big problem in Ames.
Stouts, hope to see you at Legends.
As for the squabble about whether I'm a Cyclone or Hawkeye fan, the truth is my life is better when they both do well. I'm human, so I usually end up rooting one way or another when they play each other, despite my best intentions. Andy always says I root for whatever will make the best story, and he's probably right. However, there are exceptions. This past Saturday I found myself pulling for Iowa because a couple of Cyclone fans made rude comments to me for picking Iowa to win. The score was 14-3 ISU when they let me have it. I just smiled, but it's a long game. Don't boast too soon.
Similarly, in 2002, I picked ISU to win at Iowa. The score was, I think, 24-7 at the half. I had drunk, angry Hawkeye fans cursing at me with gems like "Look at the scoreboard Murph! Why don't you f------ choke on that, d-------". I brushed it off, Andy could not. As ISU came back to win, 36-31, Andy recorded video of all the people who had yelled obscenities at me for picking against their team (and believe it or not, there were several). Andy showed some of those faces on his poignant What's Bugging Andy about taking things personally and your team too seriously. It was a protective and thoughtful thing for Andy to do, although I did feel sorry for some of the folks who just let their emotions---and beer---get the best of them.
Bob's done building the soccer field. Gotta go...
Wednesday, September 13, 2006
UNLV: One of the worst displays of sportsmanship I've ever seen. First of all, the receiver was nowhere near in-bounds, but even if UNLV's head coach got bad information, yelling at your players, "WE'RE NOT GOING ANYWHERE!", is flat out embarrassing. The Rebels made fools of themselves stomping up and down on the ISU logo and taking 20 minutes to leave the field. As my friend Ryan said, it's not every day you can't get people to leave Ames for Las Vegas.
By the way, Andy Fales followed head coach Mike Sanford with a camera as he jogged around demanding a review. Watch the meltdown UNLV Coach's Meltdown, and yes, it includes Sanford's unfortunate fall as he runs back onto the field.
Tailgating at Jack Trice: Great and getting better all the time. No school in America has improved its game day atmosphere more than Iowa State the past ten years. It's not Georgia, Nebraska, or Iowa yet, but it's a good time.
I met a lot of nice people and had the honor of signing the Webster City Short Bus. One of the guys on the bus said to me, "Hey, I saw you at a Springsteen concert a couple of years ago, and you were wearing an Iowa shirt. " I told him I know it's hard to believe, but I don't have a Cyclone or Hawkeye heart. I back both. Speaking of that...
Watching the Hawks at a Cyclone game: I was late going into the ISU - UNLV game, but not because I was playing beer pong or needed one more funnel. I brought my TV to watch Iowa at Syracuse. Dozens of people stopped by at various times to watch, and not once did I sense a Cyclone fan was truly rooting for Iowa to win. I was, to the chagrin of some fans there, but most were bleeding Orange at that point. The one exception: people who thought if Iowa lost it would make them madder for the Iowa State game. But all told, it's a myth that most Iowa State fans cheer Iowa when the two teams aren't playing each other, and vice-versa. It's a heated rivalry, as it should be.
ISU's slow start: There is no way a football team that plans to be good should go to the final play against average teams like Toledo and UNLV (Toledo lost to Western Michigan Saturday. Western Michigan, not Michigan). I was in the stands as UNLV slowly worked its way back into the game with a back-up quarterback. It was one of those nights where suddenly fans had the thought, "Hey, we could lose to UNLV!". ISU needs to step it up. And have I mentioned, THROW BLYTHE THE BALL.
Iowa survives double overtime: First the good: that Hawkeye defense. That was a goal line stand for the ages. The bad: The dropoff from Tate to Manson. Jason Manson seems like a good guy, but there may not be a bigger dip in college football than the one from Tate to Manson. If Tate's healthy, Iowa beats ISU and contends for a Big Ten title. If he's not, Iowa goes 8-4 and thanks the football gods for a friendly schedule.
Prediction: Iowa 24, ISU 13. I'm 12-3 picking this game, but all three of my misfires have been underestimating the Cyclones. Know this, McCarney will have the Clones breathing fire, as always; but I think this time Ferentz makes sure Iowa matches Iowa State's emotion.
Fred Hoiberg: A true role model. He was here at the station last week talking about his brush with death. Then he sat a few rows in front of me at the football game. The Mayor made one Cyclone fan very happy by signing her Hoiberg jersey. How did she know he'd be there?
12 years ago, I did play-by-play for an ESPN+ Cyclone game that went to the final play at Nebraska. Hoiberg helped win it for ISU. My voice was giving out from shouting over the crowd, and while I was interviewing Fred, my voice cracked. Without missing a beat, Hoiberg said, "Puberty, Keith?". I was speechless. For some reason, "puberty" struck me as a word you can't say on TV. It's not, but I had no comeback. Classic Fred.
UNI: How in the world did UNI lose to a division 2 team? It's inconceivable. It's like UNI beating Texas. I still can't believe it, and I went to a division 2 school. I'd like to say it's not that big of an upset, but it really is.
The Biggest Loser: Not Syracuse. The NBC show. My friend, the Round Guy, is on the premier Wednesday night. He's worked hard and lost a lot of weight. I'm proud of him. It's not easy to drop pounds for a guy who loves food as much as RG.
Invincible: I loved this movie. Yes, it's familiar, but it's also mostly true. It's a real life Rocky story. Strongly recommended. A-
Crank: If Jason Statham's in a movie, I'm there---and not just because he has a real cool buzz cut. However, I made the mistake of seeing this one with my mother and 19-year-old niece. This movie is rated R for hardcore sex, violence, profanity, and drug use. It's as R as a movie gets. Even though I'm 42, my mom is still my mom, and my niece is still a little girl. I couldn't have been more uncomfortable. I'm not even sure if the movie's good. However, I am sure you should think about who you go see it with. C- for Crank. I think.
Shawn Terrell: Have you seen our new guy? He's got it. We're lucky to have him.
Courtney Greene: Check out her comments in this blog two entries ago. Spot on analysis of "me first" celebrations. Nice job, Court. You can catch her Saturday mornings on Today in Iowa. She'll tell you what she thinks on that show too.
SoundOFF 500th Show: Here's a blog exclusive for you. You're invited to a big party we haven't announced yet. Please mark your calendar for October 14th. Andy, Round Guy, B-Ross, the whole gang and I will host a 500th show celebration from 6 p.m. to Midnight at Legends in West Des Moines. It's going to be a lot of fun. Hope to see you there.
Thank you for stopping by.
Monday, September 11, 2006
Another thing I remember about 9/11 is my disappointment that Iowa and Iowa State still wanted to play the football game that next Saturday. I spoke out strongly against it, and even debated the issue on air with my friend, Steve Deace. Supporters of playing gave the usual reasons that to not play means the terrorists win, and people need normalcy. I couldn't have disagreed more. Worrying about the terrorists winning or losing never comes before respect for the fallen, who were still being pulled out of the rubble. Iowa and ISU---and everybody else---eventually did the right thing. I think the way people still felt that Saturday caught many by surprise. To Deace's credit, he went on the air the following Monday and said he was wrong, that there was no way he could have felt like a football game mattered. He also knew all the post-game questions would not have been about football.
The irony is that although that dark time seemed to show us how little sport matters in the big picture, we all came to learn how much it does matter. Once enough time had passed, ballparks turned into makeshift churches and town meetings. It gave everyone a chance to show up in the same place, feel normal again, and heal.
If you haven't been to the Healing Field in West Des Moines, I strongly recommend it. It's a simple idea, but that part of what makes it so effective. As you drive, or walk, among the thousands of flags, your eye will catch just one, and you'll think to yourself how that one flag represents not only a person who died that horrible day, but all the dreams that died with her or him.
You think of your family and friends and try to put yourself in the terrible position of losing a loved one, and it's very emotional.
At the same time, the flag represents not just the one person, but all of us. The Healing Field will make you proud.
United 93 is now on DVD. If you haven't seen it, I urge you to try, unless you think it's just too much. It's an incredible work of art that will help show future generations the heroics on that doomed flight. It is a draining experience---I cried many times---but that's as it should be. When the door to the plane closes, you know it's a tomb.
Also, still in theaters, World Trade Center tells a much more uplifting story from 9/11. Don't let Oliver Stone's name scare you away. It's not political, it's American. It takes you inside those towers as they come down, and it's simply amazing. This one ends with life, not death.
Sunday, September 03, 2006
Iowa State vs. Toledo: A lot of positives came out of this game:
-ISU, and Dan McCarney, won an overtime game. This is huge. This was more than a monkey on Mac's back, it was a 500 pound gorilla. Many football observers think coaching plays an even bigger part in OT games, so for Mac to be 0-5 lifetime, and 0-3 last year gave critics ammunition, and ISU doubts in close games. That should be over now, or at least subdued.
-Todd Blythe is good. Really good. And here's some free advice: throw him the ball more! Yes, I know, they were using coverages that blah, blah, blah. Just throw him the ball. Don't wait for overtime. They can't cover Blythe, and even if they do, he'll find a way to catch it. Iowa drove me crazy underutilizing the great Tim Dwight ten years ago. ISU may have Blythe for just one more season, this one, so again, THROW HIM THE BALL.
-Bret Meyer looks even better. I've always thought a lot of Meyer as a person, and I think more of him as a quarterback each season. He's already better than I thought he'd be. He's really using his head, not to mention his legs and arm. Meyer's an easy guy to root for.
-The Cyclones are solid up the middle. Stephenson at center, Curvey at nose tackle. Those are two really important positions, and ISU can hold its own with anyone over the football.
-Brett Culbertson made his kicks. You don't think that extra point to tie in OT was pressure? It was a lot of pressure, and the former Lincoln Rail delivered. He's a stand-up guy. I'd love to see him make one with the game on the line.
-ISU found a way to win. Winning begets winning, and in three months it won't matter that it was triple overtime, just that it was a win against a decent D1 opponent.
-The crowd was great. Jamie Pollard could run for Grand Poobah of ISU and he'd win in a landslide. Nearly every person Andy Fales talked to Thursday night gushed about Pollard's moves to make it a better atmosphere. 43,000 fans isn't bad, but still shows there's work to do. The ones who were there will be back.
-A win is a win.
And now for some of the negatives:
-Bonehead play for the ages on blocked extra point. THAT'S A LIVE FOOTBALL! PICK IT UP! Hard to believe at least one player, possibly more, forgot the play wasn't dead. They realized it when Toledo scored two points. That was a two point swing, and as you know, two points kept this game going an extra 3 periods. At least it didn't contribute to what would have been a crushing loss to the morale of cyclone nation.
-The defense looked soft at times. It's true, ISU is inexperienced in spots, but the D-backs must tighten up the cushion they're giving receivers or they'll be giving up 40+ a few more games. ISU made Toledo's quarterback looked like a veterans, and he was starting his first game.
-McCarney said before the game all the talk of Iowa State "outscoring people was a lot of happy horse crap." Well, make it: Happy Horse Crap 1, Visitors 0.
-Clones let another team back in the game. Up 20 to 8, the Cyclones again failed to put their foot on an opponent's throat. At least this time, it didn't come back to bite them as it has so many other times.
-Too much praise for Toledo. Yes, the Rockets are a good MAC team, but they're still a MAC team playing on the road at a BCS conference contender's home opener. ISU should have beaten Toledo by ten or more, and fans should expect that. Respecting the opponent is one thing, making them seem better than they are is another. Iowa State should beat Toledo at home 10 out of 10 times and it should never go to overtime. Period. The Cyclones and their coaches, not to mention the fans, need to think like that.
-Reaction after winning. You could see that for a split-second, fans were about to storm the field and players were about to go nuts, and then it hit them, "Wait, we just beat Toledo. This isn't 1996." This should almost be in the positive column.
Iowa vs. Montana:
-The stadium looks great. Kinnick was the real star Saturday. A serious upgrade from top to bottom. Iowa City on game day, Montana notwithstanding, is one of the five best college football atmospheres in America, at least of the ones I've visited, and I've been to a bunch. It just doesn't get any better, or if it does, not by much.
-Kinnick Statue. The new "must see" attraction. As our Shawn Terrell pointed out, you'll see this statue with Hawkeye fans on a lot of Christmas cards and e-mails. Nile Kinnick was the real deal, and this was a great idea.
-Oh yeah, Iowa won. Can't remember when an Iowa football game was less dissected and analyzed ahead of time, but come on, it's Montana. The Grizzlies are a great 1AA team, but completely mismatched against Iowa. The Hawkeyes won, and won going away, so that's all that really matters, and all anyone expected.
-Tate and Young looked good. No surprise. Tate seems to be enjoying himself more this season, he would almost have to, while Young is underrated, as usual. Didn't take a hit all of August. Didn't matter.
-Austin Signor can kick. He's no Kyle Schlicher, not yet anyway, but he doesn't need to be. Signor gives Iowa a credible option until Schlicher's leg heals.
-The defense looked solid. But what else could we expect against Montana.
On the negative side:
-Iowa played Montana. I know games like this are here to stay, and Iowa's not the only one scheduling controlled scrimmages at game prices, but it sure is a different vibe than a game in doubt. I suppose it beats pre-season games, like in the NFL, but not by much. If the Missouri Tigers had some backbone, the season would have looked more interesting.
-Kyle Schlicher was hurt. Let's hope it's nothing serious. The thunderfoot from Ankeny is a difference-maker for Iowa.
-Herb Grigsby and Kenny Iwebema were suspended. If ever a suspension failed to weaken a team's chances of winning or worried a fan base, this was it, but only because---have I mentioned this---Iowa played Montana.
-11 a.m. kickoff. I know some people like these, but I'm not one of them. I enjoy a few more hours of tailgating---when I'm not working, of course. This week I stayed at home.
-ESPNU. Mediacom doesn't have this channel, and I have Mediacom. Let's make sure it doesn't happen again or I'll have to break down and get the dish. On the other hand, it's always nice to go to a restaurant or bar and have a shared experience with other football fans.
-Slow start. The offense looked sluggish, but football is a very emotional game. I played for ten years, and it does matter how much you get up for the game. It's hard to get up for a team you know you're going to beat even if you fail to execute. 17-7 raised eyebrows, but it was never in doubt. Iowa could score whenever it really wanted to.
I'll close by congratulating Drake on improving its game atmosphere by leaps and bounds. The Bulldogs had everything they needed Thursday night, except a way to slow down UNI. The Panthers look like future national champions to me.
I'll be back next time to catch up on the non-football stuff.
As always, thank you for reading and for the feedback.